Guest Writer – Alicia Hawker on Coping with Covid-19 Lockdown
Horseview UK are delighted to welcome Event rider, Alicia Hawker as our first guest writer. In this, due to social distancing, we sent her a list of questions for her to answer on how she is coping with this dreadful Covid-19 at a time when she should have been at Badminton for her third visit. In her mid-twenties, Alicia, or Lici to her friends, has achieved and done an astonishing amount in her thus short career and surely is destined for the very top of the world eventing sport.
Lici is based near Malmesbury in Wiltshire on the same farm where her late grandfather both milked cows and bred and trained racehorses. As a permit holder he trained many national hunt winners including at the famous National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham. Lici’s love of horses came from her “Grampy Bob” and her mother, who clearly has been and still is, a great influence and help to Lici.
Lici started competing successfully at an early age going through the British Eventing Pony, Junior and Young Rider programmes, and caught the eye of the British selectors on several occasions including being first reserve for the Junior European Championships together with being long listed for several other international events. In 2017, she won the “Mark Todd Bridging the Gap Scholarship”, since which time she has completed at the 5 star Badminton Horse Trials twice and Burghley and Pau. In 2019, she won the Under 25 year old prize at both Badminton and Burghley. She is now part of the “Windrush Equestrian Foundation” under her mentor world champion event rider Pippa Funnell. Alicia Hawker Eventing
It must be most frustrating, when in February, you were nearly ready to go for the 2020 season, only to be thwarted by Covid-19 and this lock down. How many horses have you got in the yard at the moment?
We currently have 11 horses on the yard ranging from young horses about to start their careers to 5* including my top horse Charlie who has now completed four 5*’s at Badminton, Burghley and Pau. Grampy Bob was a huge ‘horsey’ influence as well as my Mum.
How much have you had to put the fitness regimes of the horses into reverse?
When lockdown started we decided to try and ‘wind down’ the horses as they were all prepped and ready to Event – 4 of the horses had done one event. so instead of riding 6 days a week, they are now being ridden 5days. They are not going to the gallops. I do still give them a canter in the field once a week for a bit of variety and to keep weight off the fatties!!
What are you doing with the horses at the moment?
Most important at the moment is keeping motivated and making training interesting for both myself and the horses while we can’t go Eventing. I do a mixture of hacking round the farm, cantering in the field, flatwork, pole work and small gymnastic exercises. I would do each of these once a week – however it’s not set in stone. If I think one horse needs a lunge or a hack instead of polework, we leave it flexible. We have an owners and syndicate whats app group so I send lots of photos and videos – one of the young horses, Bertie, constantly naps. Everyone gets a photo of Bertie flat out asleep everyday for a laugh – He’s making the most of lockdown and is still in bed at 11am! (He does get dragged up to do some work ha!)
Have you managed to get all the supplies you need for the horses?
Yes we have so far, the feed room was stocked up the week before lockdown, and all our forage comes off the farm.
How many staff have you and have you been able to keep them busy?
I have my Headgroom Lewis, who lives on the farm and we are carrying on as normal as possible. We still have plenty of horses to look after and exercise. My working pupil and her horse went home as there is very little Eventing on the horizon – Lily will be coming back when Eventing looks like it might start up again. My mum and my brothers girlfriend (who lives here) have been helping with the horses and DIY too.
With such a chunk of the season abandoned, including Badminton, what hopes have you for the rest of the season?
As time passes in lockdown my hopes for the rest of the season change! I think being realistic I am hoping we manage to get to a few smaller events for the younger horses in September and October. I would love Burghley to run (and the events in July/Aug to get prepped for Burghley), we’ll keep our fingers crossed!
Have you been able to do anything else which normally you would not have had the time to do, or something you have been putting off?
We have been on DIY and yard improvement mission ha-ha! To keep us entertained we’ve painted, mended and improved everything that doesn’t move quick enough! I have quite enjoyed having some more time for these things – hopefully lockdown ends before we run out of jobs, otherwise we are going to be bored. We have 8 horses in work so between starting the yard at 7.30am until about 1pm Lewis and I muck out and get all the horses ridden. Often Mum will come and hack one out too. The afternoons are for ‘extra jobs’. The horses are worked everyday Mon-Fri and have the weekends off. On Saturdays we do the yard and then those big extra jobs we’ve been putting off – this weekend we are going to creosote the arena fencing – urgh! Sundays are quiet – I have started painting my house!
On a personal level, how do you think this lock down has affected you?
I am extremely grateful and feel are very very lucky to live in the countryside at the moment, as well as having a business that is still ticking over. My owners and syndicate members have been hugely supportive during this time, I owe them a big thank you. I usually do a lot of coaching which has all stopped, as well as extra riding. I just hope we can get going again soon, although some costs have gone down (e.g. fuel for the lorry, training, entries) my coaching was a large part of my income. It has however allowed me to spend more time with my boyfriend (we live together) – he hardly saw me throughout the season usually ha! Although he’s quite pleased he doesn’t have to watch too many dressage tests at the moment. Brad is not horsey and finds dressage a mystery (don’t we all!)
Have you any recommendations for books or films while in lock down and have you managed to read or watch any extra films yourself?
As the weather has been so good we haven’t watched many films, but have been catching up on some Netflix. Tiger King is a must watch just because it is so mad, you cant believe its real life! I also really like the new series of Afterlife from Ricky Gervais.
When eventing returns, what are you looking forward to the most?
I’m really looking forward to going XC – its why we Event and my favourite part. I’m also really looking forward to seeing lots of Eventing friends in person rather than on zoom!